It is time, my boy. Now, I must go to join my father, as he joined his father in Gyðja's embrace. One day, we shall meet, when you return to the Mountain. Listen well, these will be my last words of advice to you. Pass them on to your children that my legacy may live on.
The ancient rite traces it's origins to the old mountain tribes of Scread, when the people still hunted Gyðja, the Great Mountains. To the Screadans, Gyðja was the giver of life and shelter. The Vindur Tribe, those destined to become the first shamans, discovered a great pool deep within the mountains. This pool bubbled without heat, and consumed all that entered it. This was the heart of Gyðja.
Until now, the tribes would bury their dead in the mountain, piercing the skull with a wooden stake to allow the soul to leave the head. However, with this pool, they now could return the deceased directly to Gyðja. However, as the head had to remain intact to preserve the soul, it could not be offered to the pool. It was at this time that the practice began to include the severing of the head from the rest of the body. To guide others to the pool the Vindur Tribe began to take the remaining skulls and line the trail they followed. Those that walked it took to naming the path the Trail of Bone, and saw it as an act of contemplation on the way to their final destination.
The Fjallferð begins when a Screadan feels that their life is complete, usually upon reaching old age, or after completing a great deed. They, the elskaðir, will choose someone to be their félagi, and then preparations are made for the journey. The length of the trek varies, as Screadans from across the world will undertake the Fjallferð. During this trip, the elskaðir and félagi will reminisce, with wisdom typically being passed to the félagi.
All journeys converge at the Trail of Bone, a path through the mountains that leads to the Lake of Ancestors. The path is lined with the skulls of past Screadans, all equal in death, all freed to join the mountain. At it's summit is the entrance to Gyðja's Womb, the cave in which lies the Lake. Once within, a fjallboð will greet the duo, and escort them to a chamber where the elskaðir strips naked, that only what the mountain granted them will be returned to it. They are bathed and fed one final meal before being led to the Lake of Ancestors.
Once within the chamber, the fjallboð presents the félagi with a bowl filled with góður svefn. Once the elskaðir has said their final words, the félagi will hold the bowl to their mouth that they may drink. Minutes after finishing the liquid, the elskaðir closes their eyes for the final time, officially dead. After this, the fjallboð lays the body down next to the Lake of Ancestors, and with the aid of the félagi, places a skútu just below where the neck joins the head. The weight will sever it from the rest of the body, where it is then placed gently to the side, while final rites are said over the body, which is then lowered into the Lake of Ancestors, where it will dissolve and be returned to the mountain.
The head is then skinned and cleaned by the fjallboð, and given to the félagi along with the anda nagli. The félagi will place the iron stake against the frontal bone, and lightly tap the end of the stake with a hammer until a hole is formed, allowing the soul to escape the head and pass on to the afterlife. They then carve their name, and the name of the elskaðir into the skull alongside a deed they accomplished in life before granting it to the fjallboð, who will find a place for it along the Trail of Bone.
Components and tools
Anda Nagli: This rounded iron stake is lightly tapped against the skull with a hammer until a hole is formed, freeing the soul to the afterlife.
Góður Svefn: A draught using heart-of-the-mountain, graveroot, salt, and water from the Lake of Ancestors. Drinking this concoction ends with a peaceful death within minutes.
Knife: A simple knife is used to remove flesh and muscle from the skull in preparation for the soul to be freed.
Skútu: This iron blade is attached to the underside of a heavy slab of stone. It is used to sever the head from the body.
Elskaðir: The Beloved, the one who undertakes the journey. It is they who shall be returned to the mountain, to join with their ancestors.
Félagi: The Companion, a dear friend or loved one who ensures that the elskaðir safely reaches the Lake of Ancestors. They are the one who will give the beloved the góður svefn, as well as set the soul free using the anda nagli.
Fjallboð: The shaman that leads the ritual, directing the félagi in what needs to be done. They are also responsible for safely placing the body of the elskaðir within the waters of the Lake of Ancestors. They are also tasked with placing the elskaðir's skull on the Walk of Bone.
There is no set time that one must undergo the Fjallferð, as each individual is different. It is simply accepted that when someone believes themselves ready, they shall designate another to be their félagi, thus beginning the journey. There have been those as young as fourteen cycles that have felt their lives complete and underwent the Fjallferð.